Several new beekeepers have asked about winter prep. Please share how you winter your bees, too.
FEED: If your hives are light - lift the boxes to check if they feel light - then it's time to start feeding. In the fall, use a 2 sugar:1water ratio solution. Make the solution a day ahead so it's cool enough to handle. Feed until you wrap your hives for winter. Heavy hives should have enough honey for winter. If you're uncertain, it doesn't hurt to feed them. Remove any unused solution before winter.
WRAP: The key here is to provide a wind break and solar gain while providing proper ventilation. Moisture/condensation can be the downfall of a colony. When we started beekeeping in central IA, state apiarist Andy Joseph showed us how to prepare our hives. See this link to see a series of photos on how we did this: https://picasaweb.google.com/1170028...eat=directlink
If things get too late for sugar water making fondant or using a mountain camp method works alright for helping the colony survive the winter.
On moisture there is a school of thought it is a resource to the bees in the winter ( they can't eat the honey without diluting it ) and there is a school of thought that moisture is bad. As long as the bees stay dry themselves some moisture is probably a good thing. I just wrap with a bit of tar paper and reduce entrances, keep a windbreak so the hives aren't getting blasted by the winter wind.
Remember the bees need empty cells as well for clustering and mouse guards will save alot of mess.
I put mouse guards on two weeks ago. I am feeding two hives with Mann Lake top feeders and one hive with a gallon pail feeder since they wouldn't use the top feeder. I plan to remove the feeders when they quit taking syrup and put a candy board with upper entrance on them. I bought some fence panels from Menards and I am going to modify them to make a windbreak on the north and west sides. About Thanksgiving I will wrap them with 15 lb tarpaper and hope that they survive!
hi - how long are you both planning to feed syrup? we still have ours on. anne
I plan to leave the feeders on until they quit taking syrup. I bet they are packing it away with our 70 degree weather, yesterday, today and 80 tomorrow. Then it will slow down with the 45 degree days and 30 degree nights this weekend. I then plan to put candy boards on when I remove the syrup feeders.
It's Dec 2nd and we half winterized the bees today. We'll add the top board of insulation when the weather looks more like winter.
Since our hives are light, we're still feeding sugar water AND just added homemade fondant* and honey. It's honey from our OWN hives. The bees are taking to it like, well, flies on honey! Wow - so many probosces going at once! Hope that helps make the hives a little heavier.
*OK, this was a labor of bee love. I used the "quick" fondant recipe that you can find here http://wvbeekeeper.blogspot.com/2008...eekeepers.html
HA! If this is quick, then I wonder what the regular cooked candy is like? My kitchen looked like a snowstorm when I was done. Seriously, I think the quick recipe is fine, just make sure that the mixture is VERY stiff before you make it into patties. I read a tip to press the fondant onto the empty (new) foundation in a deep frame. I let that dry overnight and added two or three candy frames to each hive.